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Everest gear discussion
Everest is as real as it gets. You need a lot of gear, plan it very carefully and remember that you have to carry your personal equipment on the mountain. You can now buy some of the expensive/hard to find items in Kathmandu. This page is written specifically for Everest from the Tibet side.
What you are planning for
Basically you should plan with 5 specific climates/functions in mind:
+ 7000m and above
+ normal variable mountaineering conditions
+ intensely hot mountaineering conditions
+ base camp and ABC living
+ travel to the mountain
Obviously much of your gear will fulfill multiple roles.
Conditions en route to the summit vary tremendously from day to day and year to year. You have to be prepared for the worst. It is essential to be fully insulated with down all over and to be fully wind-protected. With so little oxygen in the air you have trouble keeping warm, even while exercising. It is normal for a midnight start, and 8300m nights can be rather chilly to say the least.
+ Primaloft mittens
The best are the top of the range mitts from OR (Outdoor Research), their Alti Mitts or Black Diamond, eg Mercury Mitts, and all are normally available in Kathmandu. They will be closer fitting and less bulky than down mitts (such as the Rab ones) but just as warm. Ensure they have a system for looping around your wrist or can be attached to your down suit. Cheap bulky down mittens (good spares) are easily purchased in Kathmandu.
+ Down suit
You normally use a down suit from Camp 2/7000m to the summit, but nowhere else on the mountain unless conditions are particularly bad.
Underneath it is normal to wear a mid-weight
thermal top next to the skin, a stretch fleece (sleeveless) body suit over that
and then an expedition weight thermal or 100 weight fleece over that.
+ Ski goggles
Clear goggles are very useful for Everest, to protect your eyes from the wind on that midnight start, and darker goggles can be useful climbing above North Col.
+ water bottles and/or hydration system
You need to plan a system to keep in your down suit
specifically for the summit attempt. If you have a system with tubes you MUST keep the tubes
under your suit the whole time, only digging them out to drink, otherwise
they will freeze, insulated tubes or not. Perhaps the safest system is 2x 0.5
litre (16oz) Nalgene bottles; they fit into chest pockets easily and are not as
bulky and heavy as 1 litre bottles (because you are not carrying as much water,
of course). These bottles are usually available in Kathmandu but bring from home
if you are able to buy at home.
You need the warmest boots available. Generally the best are the Millet Everest (red and black in colour) but the Lowe top of the range boots also look good. Thinsulate inner boots are NOT suitable, they can get wet. Please do discuss, boots are one of the most critical items.
These Millet Everest boots, are usually available in Kathmandu for around ~US$500 used, or ~US$700 new. They are surprisingly light and extremely warm but initially feel a bit clumsy. In fact since you spend a lot of time walk-climbing, they work really well, are really comfortable for that. It is normal to use them above ABC. The boots should fit well but not tight as your feet can swell at altitude. Don't get boots two sizes too big.
ENSURE YOUR CRAMPONS FIT whichever system you are using. Grivel G12's and the latest Petzl's with the plastic strap system for heel and toe fit big boots well and are simple to put on.
2x brand new thick socks for the summit attempt, these should be mainly wool. One pair for using, one for backup. I don't recommend liner socks but if you do prefer them then Merino wool seem best.
+ Foot warmers
There are more and more solutions to help keep your feet warm. It is unusual to get frostbite in Millet Everest boots but you feet definitely get very cold. The electric systems seem a hassle but are probably the most effective, see Explorers Web. I have used chemical warmers (see Wikipedia) and have had hit and miss results. Sometimes they have activated, other times not.
+ Summit day pack
This should be very light but capable of carrying nearly 8 kgs of oxygen, eg Mountain Hardwear Scrambler - or use your big pack.
General all weather mountaineering gear
ABC-North Col (7000m): when there's no wind and the sun is shining a thermal top is enough, backed up by a fleece or light down jacket for rest stops. When the wind picks up or the sun goes the temperature drops dramatically, have plenty of insulation handy.
For the head
high quality glacier glasses and cheapie spare glasses, good sun hat, warm hat that fully covers your ears, neck gaiter, thick balaclava and very thin balaclava. You will be able to change to exactly what suit.
Face mask, breath warmer - cold air coughs can become debilitating and investing in some sort of face mask is essential. A buff and either a thin balaclava or balaclava with mesh for the mouth is the minimum but there are better products such as the Psolar range, the BX Balaclava or the more versatile Psolar LX Lightweight Facemask.
For the hands
brand new liner gloves, brand new fleece gloves/windstopper gloves eg Black Diamond Windweight, and perhaps some mittens or gloves that are in between the warmest Primaloft mitts and windstopper gloves. Gloves with leather palms for rope handling are better than simple liner gloves unless you have both.
+ collapsible trekking poles, eg the Black Diamond range (some people prefer to use only one; that is OK)
+ light ice axe. There are a couple of steep sections, both ice and rock, but it is better to go light than technical.
+ strong crampons with anti-balling plates. Aluminum crampons are only able to be used between ABC and North Col.
+ light harness (Black Diamond Couloir is good, but there are others), jumar, belay device (ATC, figure of 8 etc, what ever you are familiar with and can be used in 'no brain' mode)
+ 2x locking karabiners, several plain karabiners, 1x prusik cord to complement your jumar, safety sling and 1x long prusik cord.
For climbing a reasonably new 4-5 season sleeping bag with at least
1kg/2.2lb of down is best. I feel that second-to-top of
the range eg
Mountain Hardwear Wraith, around -29C/-20F, is enough but this is debatable; the top of
the range bags with 1.2kgs of down are heavy and not
necessary, although are very comfy. Good bags are available in Kathmandu but
are only a little cheaper than the USA. You can rent reasonably good bags.
Thermarest (or similar) and foam pad. Sleeping on a COLD glacier, a Thermarest isn't enough so the combination is better and safer. Pro-lite 4's are better than thinner ones, but any will do, just remember you have to carry it. The thinner your Thermarest, the better your closed cell foam pad should be. If you go with only a closed cell foam mattress then the Ridgerests are great, and should still have a very thin second closed cell foam mattress underneath. All are available in Kathmandu.
+ expedition-weight set of thermals.
+ set of mid-weight thermals - white or light in colour can be useful - see below.
+ plenty of nearly new socks of various thicknesses, including light or mid-weight.
+ fleece or softshell jacket.
+ climbing jacket - windproof and breathable.
+ climbing bibs/sallopettes - windproof, breathable - and perhaps a thinner pair of windproof pants.
+ wind-suit. This is an alternative to using a jacket and bibs on the mountain. Some people like them and some don't and they are hard to find. If you bring a suit also bring windproof, breathable jacket and light windproof pants for the trek into ABC.
+ leggings/light trekking pants for warm conditions walking and climbing, especially between ABC and Camp 1.
+ Trekking boots
You need a set of strong a durable leather boots for
walking from BC to ABC. The terrain is rough with a lot of rock to trip on. These boots should be broken in but still capable of lasting the
expedition; they will see a lot of use. These will also do as camp shoes.
+ big volume but light backpack, eg Mountain Hardwear South Col or Osprey Aether 70/85 or if going light, the Black Diamond Quantum 65 etc. You carry a lot of bulky down gear moving between camps so you should have a large but relatively light big pack.
+ larger daypack (~45 litre) with a waist belt for our acclimatization day trips.
+ water bottles/system for carrying 2-4 litres
+ pee bottle (that doesn't leak!)
+ headlamp. The LED multi-bulb ones are great around camp, with two-three sets of good batteries. For climbing the ultra-bright LED torches are the best, avoid all headlamps with normal bulbs. You definitely want at least two headlamps.
+ roll-on deodorant. You will be amazed at how approachable you still are after five days without a shower IF you have deo!
- helmet. Although there is minor rock fall above North Col to high on the mountain nobody uses a helmet to save weight.
During the middle of the day at 6000-7000m on the snow, the sun can be INTENSE. Every expedition had a couple of days where you feel breathless in the sun. It really helps to have one set of white or light-coloured thermals, at minimum a white silk-weight top or airy, loose shirt.
+ white, collared cotton shirt or white set of thermals with long sleeves
+ optional nose sun protector for use with your sunglasses. Anything will do, home-made is fine, as long as it doesn't interfere with breathing.
+ good factor 20+ lip balm (Dermatone or Banana boat, both available in Kathmandu)
+ good sunscreen
+ sunscreen that doesn't freeze, like a Dermatone stick
BC/ABC evening gear
Around base camp and ABC you can wear camp shoes or leather boots. Although climbing boot inners are warm, the sharp rock underfoot trash them.
+ Substantial down jacket.
+ thick fleece pants or Primaloft pants eg Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant.
+ BC sleeping bag. This should be 4 season although a fleece lining (available in Kathmandu) can do wonders. It saves you a lot of ferrying if you have two sleeping bags, one for BC and another for ABC (for Interim camp we will move your BC bag back). You can get serviceable sleeping bags in Kathmandu for US$200-300, and boost it with a quilt or duvet over the top, as already discussed.
+ sleeping bag liner. Silk is nicest but cotton or fleece will lessen the rate of grime accumulation.
+ ABC Thermarest we provide a combined closed cell and open cell mattress for BC and ABC but a Thermarest adds warmth at ABC.
+ BC and ABC pee bottle
You will use this gear from touchdown in Kathmandu to base camp. Obviously there is a lot of crossover; most of this gear can be used on the mountain too. Gear storage in Kathmandu is free so you can leave a clean set of clothes there, if you want.
+ trekking pants and shirt
+ thermal top
+ fleece jacket
+ windproof, breathable jacket
+ sleeping sheet for use in the not so clean hotels, silk is luxurious and great for using with your sleeping bag too
For the trek from BC to ABC be prepared for fine weather, wind and snow.
What is available in Kathmandu
There are dozens of gear shops in Kathmandu but they mostly sell locally made gear, even if the gear has a "North Face" label. There are a few better quality shops though, with a selection of Korean North face, Mountain Hardwear and Ozark.
You can find good new and secondhand Millet boots, cheap thick down jackets, cheap down pants, sleeping bags, and all sorts of fleece gear (made from Korean fleece). There is less selection for thermals and the very latest soft shells.
Foam mattresses are easy to buy, and this saves packing space while flying.
We provide 3 substantial meals at BC and ABC, and afternoon tea but you will still want plenty of snacks for in between times, especially while climbing in between camps. Variety helps when you don't feel like eating. Protein bars, as well as energy bars can be very useful. Count on sharing a few with the sherpas too.